What is Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is a cancer that affects a type of white blood cell called a “lymphocyte.”
Lymphocytes help your body fight off infections. They are created in the bone marrow, which is the soft center of your bones. If you have CLL, it means your body makes a very high number of lymphocytes that are not working right.
They say”Older Adults” get CLL, but to my findings younger adults gets it as well. In some cases it’s found in children.
It is so silent in your body, you may never know you have it.
Some people never need treatment. They call that the “watch and wait”. Which means, the doctor will keep a watch on your blood count to keep track of your CLL.
Sometimes you do need medication, it can slow the disease and ease symptoms. People who get medical care live longer today because doctors are diagnosing CLL earlier.
It’s natural to have worries and questions about any serious condition. You don’t have to face things alone. Discuss with your friends and family about any concerns you have. Let them know how you feel and what they can do to help. Talk to your doctor about how to join a support group. If you decide to join a support group, please search for people that is living positively with CLL. You can also talk to me. Ask me what you need to know I don’t mind shedding some hope to your future.
What Causes CLL?
According to my doctor it is mostly environmental. I have read upon these other reason and it is not correct. Here are some false examples. They may not be false but according to me and my experience this is what I have to say:
- You have a parent, sibling, or child who has CLL.- Wrong I’m the only one in my family and yes I’m a grandma
- You’re middle-aged or older.- Now that’s partially correct. In some cases they are children to young adults
- You’re a white man.- Wrong. I’m a Black Woman
- You have relatives who are either Eastern European or Russian Jews.-Wrong I am a Black American
If you were exposed to Agent Orange, widely used during the Vietnam War, your chances of getting CLL may also be higher.- OK mine is a little close to that because the jobs I worked during my earlier years was very environmental. Back in my days I did construction, crazy smells, I worked in plants making cloth, fiber flying everywhere, worked in a coal mine, mask were not a PPE for us. I was a welder. I did painting. Most of the jobs I worked on was environmental. Some of them had asbestos and we were not thinking of it as being a problem.
What are the symptoms of CLL?
You may have no symptoms for a while. Over time, you may have:
- Swollen lymph nodes in your neck, armpits, stomach, or groin. Lymph nodes are pea-sized glands in these and other areas of your body. I had these symptoms but I thought nothing of them. Just little tiny pimples popping out here and there
- Shortness of breath. I did not notice that at the time.
- Pain or fullness in your stomach, which may be because the disease has made your spleen bigger. That were not a problem. I love to eat
- Fatigue- I love to dance. One night my husband and I went dancing. I got so tired, so fast for no reason. That’s when I knew something was wrong
- Night sweats I blamed my night sweats on menopause all the way.
- Fever and infections.- I never had a fever or infection
- Loss of appetite and weight- No loss of either.
- Bruising.- I started getting big bruises in weird places
- Nose Bleeding- I never had a nose bleed
How to Get a Diagnosis for CLL
I had to go to the Emergency because I felt something was wrong with me getting so tired, so fast. When they gave me a blood test, my Hemoglobin was a 3. The regular for a woman is a 12.0 to 15.5. Many Blood transfusions came with my Diagnosis,
If you have one or more swollen lymph nodes, your doctor may ask a series of questions.
Your doctor will give you a blood test if they think you may have CLL. The results show how many lymphocytes, platelets, and red and white cells are in your blood.
If your white blood cell counts are high, you will get a bone marrow aspiration and biopsy.
What is the Treatment for CLL
Some kinds of CLL grow very slowly. If yours is in the early stages or it’s not causing any problems, you probably don’t need treatment. Studies show that it doesn’t help. It’s called the” Watch and Wait”
It’s very important you should keep up with all your doctor visits. Your doctor will closely check to make sure your condition hasn’t changed. No excuses what so ever
You may start treatment if your doctor notices a change, like the number of lymphocytes in your blood goes up quickly, there’s a drop in the number of your red blood cells, or a lymph node is getting bigger.
Stem cell transplants
To find out more about these treatments Please check out the Cancer Research Institute
What You Can Expect
CLL often grows slowly. With good care, you can live well with it for many years. I was diagnosed with CLL Dec.2 2014 and I live a happy healthy life.
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society has resources that can help you deal with different aspects of CLL, from financial to emotional issues. These resources include local education programs, support groups, online chats, and one-on-one support from someone who has been through it. They helped me financially when I could not work, They took care of the medical bills. My cancer care center hooked me up.
Thank you so much,